Yesterday the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed a lawsuit against ExpressJet Airlines, a United Express carrier, in a federal district court in Atlanta. The lawsuit alleges that the company triggered a “major dispute” under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the law governing airline and railroad labor relations, when it unilaterally offered a bonus program to attract new airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics while it was negotiating with the union over fair pay rates for those workers.
The lawsuit also alleges that the company violated the RLA by offering recruitment bonuses to mechanics without bargaining with the union about those changes. The union requested that the court prohibit the company from making these unilateral changes until pay rates and bonuses could be bargained with the Teamsters, who represent ExpressJet’s 500 mechanics and related workers.
“It may seem odd that a union is filing a lawsuit over bonuses; however, the company is refusing to pay all of its mechanics more, even though there is a mechanic shortage and our members are leaving for better paying jobs at other unionized airlines,” said Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division. “The solution to that is to negotiate fair compensation that rewards all of the mechanics for their skill and hard work, not to bypass negotiations and target only new recruits while more senior workers are forced to either leave the company or bargain endlessly for fair pay. The RLA requires ExpressJet to bargain with its mechanics about fair wages and that’s what this lawsuit is intended to make the company do.”
The union expects the court to hold a hearing on its request for a preliminary injunction in the upcoming weeks.